It should now be apparent that a knowledge of registration provides the necessary means for correcting any and all technical situations, as well as providing a basis for a revision of concepts. What seems increasingly obvious is the need to reflect culturally and emotionally derived attitudes associated with taste. Natural quality, a product of natural movement, depends upon evaluations which must agree not with taste, but with nature’s laws. This means that objective and subjective concepts are to be brought into agreement not only with each other, but with functional logic by which the vocal organs are governed. – Voice: Psyche and Soma
Everything believed and practiced concerning voice is too often a matter of personal opinion without basis or reference to fact and these opinions are held with a truly amazing obstinacy. Why? Because they are based on superficial impression and an aesthetic preference based more on musical taste and a psychological predisposition rather than practice and detached clinical experience – trial and error, where truth rather than personal experience is the objective, and used as the criteria.
If that which is perceived as voice is in a purely physical sense nothing but the movement of air set in motion because of the activity of muscles, then it is the tensors of the vocal folds, the cricothyroid and arytenoid muscle systems which maintain vocal fold vibratility, that form the very core of the vocal mechanism. Consequently, whatever inhibition of movement takes place as the vocal folds are drawn into tension ensures that all other areas of function will likewise be inhibited. Whether it be a question of range extension, precise intonation, an ability to run scales smoothly and rapidly, sustaining a pure legato line, achieving articulatory freedom, purity of the vowel, an even, expressive and unobtrusive vibrato, or efforts made to enhance resonance characteristics, all of these desirable functions rely for their freedom on the precision with which the tensor mechanisms of the vocal folds interact. Therefore, the attainment, regulation and control over these technical and artistic objectives depends upon an understanding of registrational mechanics.
What does it mean to sing musically? Intonation should be precise; vowel qualities should be unblemished; phrases should always be released on a strong rhythmic impetus; the periodicity of the vibrato should be regular with its oscillating patterns rising and falling with increases and decreases of intensity; the melody must flow and possess a discernable shape and design; breath should be inspired within the rhythmic structure of the phrase being sung; while the total effect should appear to the listener as being a spontaneous utterance.
When Giambattista Mancini contended in his Practical Reflections on Figured Singing (1774) “that of all the difficulties one encounters in the art of singing, the greatest by far is the union of the two registers,” and that any disparity between them can be overcome by those “who will seriously study how it is to be done,” he touched upon the fundamental problem encountered during the many stages of technical development through which the singer must pass to obtain a coordinated seamless scale. Before a training program can be devised to affect a successful unification of the registers several questions must be given an answer. The first being what is the ultimate objective of technical training? According to the consensus among authorities of the Bel Canto era, the purpose of technical study was to bring the two registers (the chest and the falsetto) to a point where each would be blended into a seamless scale covering a range of two octaves. Mancini observed that in rare cases this was a gift of nature. However, it is a skill that fortunately could be achieved by assiduous study.
Of the three broad categories of commonly recognized tonal oscillation, the vibrato, the tremolo and the wobble, the only one possessing positive elements in relation to the mechanical functioning of the vocal mechanism is the vibrato. The oscillating pattern of the tremolo is too rapid and fluttery, the wobble is too erratic in design and without relevance to changes of intensity. On the other hand, the vibrato possesses a regularity of both its periodicity and amplitude of vibration directly proportional to increases and decreases in tonal volume, the effect on listening being that the total mechanism functions in a state of equilibrium. Thus, the vibrato is not an acquired skill, but a state and condition of the mechanism whose presence announces itself after all the physical and conceptual areas of the voice are in place and the vocal mechanism itself operating in a state of balanced tension.
An insistence on singing musically during all aspects of technical training makes it possible to detect errors and institute corrective measures. Register mechanics and good musicality are part and parcel of the same elemental processes, as it is through register mechanics that corrective measures can be taken. The chest voice and the falsetto in their varying combinations are the mechanical tools at the teacher’s disposal for correcting not only technical faults, but musical ones as well.